If you answered “Thomas Jefferson,” you would be wrong.
Jefferson merely composed the first draft of a document others created.
In this episode, Danielle Allen, Foundation Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study and author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, leads us on an exploration of the Declaration of Independence.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, we explore the Declaration of Independence with Danielle Allen, Foundation Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study and author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.
She will reveal how New Hampshire’s need for a government in 1776 prompted the Continental Congress to start writing the Declaration; How Thomas Jefferson merely composed the first draft of a document authored by many people; and how undertaking a slow reading of the Declaration of Independence will help us understand and unlock all of the ideas contained within it.
Danielle also talks us through the practice of slow reading and provides us with tips for how we can apply the practice to our reading of the Declaration of Independence.
What You’ll Discover
- What a political theorist is and what they study
- Why Danielle undertook a close study of the Declaration of Independence
- Why we don’t need a lot of historical context to read and understand the Declaration of Independence
- How New Hampshire’s need for a government in 1776 led the Continental Congress to commence writing the Declaration of Independence
- How you can experience the fear and tension of the American Revolution by reading the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams
- Who really authored the Declaration of Independence
- The “distinctive art of group writing”
- How you can see group writing in the Declaration of Independence
- The role 4 printers played in the authorship of the Declaration of Independence
- The important role punctuation plays in the Declaration of Independence
- What the practice of slow reading is and how applying the practice to the Declaration of Independence helps us understand the document
- How the Declaration of Independence conveys 5 ideas about equality when the document uses the word “equal” two times
- How we can reconcile the fact that the Declaration of Independence says a lot about equality and yet its authors did not necessarily intend to extend equality to all people
- The intertwined nature of the ideas of freedom and equality
- Why present-day Americans feel the need to choose between freedom or equality rather than insisting upon both
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Danielle Allen
- Danielle’s Institute for Advanced Study website
- Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality
- Why Plato Wrote
- Correspondence of John and Abigail Adams
- Journals of the Continental Congress
- What might have happened if the Committee of Five and the full Continental Congress had allowed Thomas Jefferson to keep his anti-slavery lines in the Declaration of Independence?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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*Picture of Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society